Keeping one another safe is a choice. Choose wisely.

With COVID-19 rapidly spreading through our communities, we must call upon one another to help in this critical time. We need to join together to help keep our families and loved ones safe. Help keep our co-workers, classmates and neighbors safe. Help keep our frontline workers and healthcare workers safe. Help keep our communities safe.

Since the pandemic started, we have been overwhelmed with a lot of new information, and sometimes this can be confusing. Since COVID-19 is a new disease, we are still learning how it affects an individual’s health and how to treat it.

What we do know is that COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person. In addition, we know that wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing good hygiene can reduce the spread.

We also know that some of us are more vulnerable than others, but COVID-19 can cause severe illness or death in people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a virus that often aggressively attacks internal systems, resulting in what may be long-term or permanent damage.

Individuals with COVID-19 often have much more severe health complications than those with the flu, causing ICU beds to fill. Individuals with COVID-19 have longer recovery times, causing our hospitals to become overburdened. Individuals with COVID-19 can have their condition rapidly deteriorate, so we must check in often with those we know in isolation.

Nobody wants to see a loved one severely ill. Nobody wants businesses and schools to shut down because of COVID-19 clusters. Nobody wants hospitals to run out of resources or space to care for patients with COVID-19 or any other illness.

The good news is that we can all do a few simple things to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. It is our personal choice, and choices matter. We should choose wisely.

•Wear a mask when you are around other people.

•Wash your hands thoroughly often.

•Social distance whenever possible (6 feet).

•Avoid large gatherings.

•Clean frequently touched surfaces.

•If you are feeling sick or showing any COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your doctor.

•If you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor and follow any testing and quarantine guidelines.

•If you have friends or family who may be feeling lonely and isolated, call and check in on them regularly.

If we all work together, our communities have a better chance of limiting the spread. We know we can do this. We need to do this. Let’s do it.

Ron Barry, Superintendent, USD 440 Halstead;

Russell C. Buller, Chief Hesston Fire/EMS;

Craig Dunlavy, Chief Newton Police Department;

Jon C. Gering, Ph.D., President Bethel College;

Val Gleason, President & CEO Newton Medical Center;

Randy Hague, Chairman Harvey County Commission;

David Kauffman, Mayor City of Hesston;

Leroy Koehn, Mayor City of Newton;

Jennifer Scott Koontz, MD, MPH President Harvey County Medical Society;

James Krehbiel, President & CEO Bluestem Communities;

Joseph Manickham, Ph.D. President Hesston College;

Lynnette Redington, Director Harvey County Health Department;

Steve Roberson, Chief Newton Fire/EMS;

Fred Van Ranken, Superintendent Newton USD 373;

Barth Hague, President & CEO Mirror Inc.